30 Years Ago Four Scientists Saved New York City, is how the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie begins. But no one needed to tell me that. I’m an old school Ghostbuster. And I mean die hard; I even had some of the action figures as a kid.
If anyone was predispositioned to hate the idea of the Ghostbusters reboot, it was me. But I LOVE the idea of it. And I’ll tell you why.
The fact that Ghostbusters was funny is not the only reason I’ve watched it a dozen times. Sure, it’s a supernatural adventure movie that perfectly plays the trope of a ragtag band of misfits against authority, but the brilliance is in who made up that ragtag band. It was a group of nerds; scientists, even. And those scientists just didn’t use their smarts (and their smart mouths) to become heroes, they saved the world. That is a message we really need to hear.
Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore were just as human as the next person. Their only superpowers were their brains and a heavy dose of entrepreneurial spirit.
They didn’t have special forces military training, the resources of a billion dollar organization, or special abilities due to a radiation experiment gone wrong in a lab. Oh, they did owe much of their success to a lab, but it was experience and knowledge built through good ‘ole fashioned research, experimentation, and a zeal for knowledge, the same skills utilized by tens of thousands of real-life scientists today.
But I understand some of the criticisms leveled against the new Ghostbusters film. Some claim that it is yet another example of an unnecessary remake that can’t possibly live up to the original. Those folks claim it exists solely because some suits have the rights and want to make lots and lots of money. I’ll admit, I have some sympathy for that viewpoint. In the last few years there’s been a torrent of cinematic do-overs. Off the top of my head: Jurassic Park, Fantastic Four, Point Break, Superman, Conan, Robocop, TMNT, Spider-man (twice), and many, many more. Hollywood doesn’t feel fresh, that’s for certain.
But while many of the above may have been nostalgia-leveraged cash grabs, we need the Ghostbusters reboot. Not only does this new Ghostbusters acknowledge the OGs (original Ghostbusters), but this new team are scientists and engineers as well, something that is specifically highlighted in the trailer.
Best of all, my two young daughters will have a little more affirmation that it’s good and typical for girls to be scientists and engineers. This is important to me. There is no question that I can trace a portion of my interest in science and engineering to the first Ghostbusters movie.
A scientist as the hero of the film; the savior of the story? Sign me up. And sign me up in particular as we live in a culture that most befuddlingly mocks and undermine scientists. For many, the scientific consensus in climate change is something to thumb their nose at, and there are other similar examples of an unwillingness to trust the scientific community. Well, Venkman had several smart-mouthed retorts for Walter Peck, so Ghostbusters gives me confidence that the scientists will win in the end.
Of course, 30 years later, the comedy will be different. Ghostbusters was more a booger flick than a man-boy romp, which are exemplified by the entire Judd Apatow canon. (Harold Ramis was a god, and I’ll blast anyone who says otherwise with a proton pack.) Modern comedies features a level of coarse puerility that wouldn’t have made it past the censors in those earlier days. And the new Ghostbusters will certainly be faster-paced, working better for an attention-challenged and CGI-filled era.
But those things are just surface stuff, window dressing. The good, important stuff is that scientists (who come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and religions) will save us all, even from the slimy ghosts and haunts that threaten New York City.
We’re nerds, just like the heroes of Ghostbusters. We’re the inquisitive ones, the thinkers, the makers, the problem-solvers. We may have been mocked by the gen pop (general population) for our pocket protectors, but us nerds can withstand those insults, as we needed a protected pocket to place our Texas Instruments graphing calculator. After all, we have equations to solve, including how to safely contain a poltergeist. The betterment of the world depends on it.
30 years ago, four scientists saved New York City expressly because they were scientists, which made them uniquely qualified to understand and then solve complex problems. The world needs that still today. So I, for one, am thankful for the Ghostbusters reboot. The world needs it.